Mortality rates from motor neuron disease in England and Wales for the years 1959-1979 were studied through death certification data supplied by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. The age- and sex-adjusted mortality rate increased over the period from 1.2 per 100 000 per year in 1959-61 to 1.6 in 1977-79, the increase being most apparent in women over age 45 years and men over 60 years. The ratio of the sex-specific mortality rates remained fairly constant at 1.6:1 (male to female). The distribution of motor neuron disease deaths within England and Wales showed more variation between counties and between Hospital Regions than expected, and areas of high motor neuron disease mortality along the south coast and low mortality in the Midlands could be identified. The variation was most marked in those aged over 65 years at death. Examination of occupation, as listed on the death certificates, showed an excess of motor neuron disease deaths in leather workers in all three periods for which data were available (1959-63, 1970-72 and 1975). A small study of the certified cause of death of 56 motor neuron disease patients showed that a high percentage (88%) had motor neuron disease given as the cause of death.
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